Seemingly in response to this letter from Chairmans Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Dave Camp (R-MI) on January 29 to the Treasury and IRS, on February 1, the IRS again finalized the Obamacare subsidy regulations that flagrantly deviate from the statutory authority. This issue continues to simmer relatively under the radar since I last wrote about it in August. To refresh everyone’s memory, Obamacare’s core redistributionist provisions are its refundable premium tax credits and cost sharing subsidies available for individuals to purchase coverage on state exchanges starting in 2014. The credits will be available to anyone with annual income under 400% of the federal poverty line who isn’t covered under an employer-sponsored plan. To put that in perspective, a family of four today earning up to $92,200 per year would be eligible for the credits.
Federal Exchanges Excluded
Here’s the kicker: Obamacare specifically limits these credits and subsidies to individuals who purchase coverage on an exchange established by the state. Below is the actual, unambiguous provision from PPACA [emphasis added]:
Yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committe held its first round on hearings over last month’s terrorist attack at the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya that took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, and the subsequent cover-up.
House Republicans are looking to get to the bottom the security failures that aided terrorists in attacking the consulate and finding out why the White House and State Department initially blamed the anti-Islamic video, “Innocence of Muslims,” for the incident. In case you haven’t read anything about the hearing, things got a little testy.
Eli Lake, who has contributed some excellent reporting on aftermath of the attack and cover-up, has a great breakdown of the hearing:
The star witness for Republicans at Wednesday’s hearing on the assault on the consulate in Benghazi said he twice urged the State Department to keep an elite diplomatic security team in Libya, but was denied each time. The team, a group of soldiers attached to the national guard, left the country in August.
In his testimony, Eric Nordstrom, the top U.S. diplomatic security official in Libya until the end of June, was at times harshly critical of his superiors at State. His tone differed from his prepared remarks, which appeared more measured, and which he said were written with the help of guidelines from the State Department. In those remarks, he said the vast majority of his requests for security resources were “considered seriously and fastidiously.
Throughout this Fast & Furious mess, nearly everyone has paid attention to just Darrell Issa and Eric Holder squaring off in a Congress committee room. But there’s another thing that should be focused on, that being the agency at the heart of this disgrace. But I surely cannot have been the only person to ask this question:
Why do we even have ATF around anymore?
Well, maybe I have. Bear with me as I try to answer it.
Let’s read their mission statement:
A unique law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products. We partner with communities, industries, law enforcement, and public safety agencies to safeguard the public we serve through information sharing, training, research, and use of technology.
A “unique” agency? How can unique can that be?
“protects our communities from violent criminals” – Doesn’t every law enforcement agency do that?
“criminal organizations” – Sounds more like an FBI job or something for the gang squad of a local PD
“the illegal use and trafficking of firearms” – Okay, I can sorta see this one
“the illegal use and storage of explosives” – This one too, sort of, but I would think that other agencies could also handle explosions quite readily
“acts of arson and bombings” – Two words: fire department. Okay, four more: Federal Bureau of Investigation
The practice of earmarks has come under scrutiny in recent years and some members in both chambers have pushed for bans on the practice because of the propensity of their colleagues to use them for less than noble purposes. The House of Representatives did enact a moratorium, though it doesn’t seem to be all that effective.
Some say that restricting earmarks is unconstitutional because it cuts in on congressional spending authority in Article I, Section 8. Others say that earmarks represent a fraction of the budget and eliminating them does nothing in the way of restoring fiscal responsibility. The former has some merit, but we know how James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, felt about spending for pork projects. It’s hard to see that he would find funding peanut research meets any constitutional litmus test.
The latter is true; however, earmarks are the epitome of what is wrong with Washington, DC. Yes, reforming entitlements and cutting spend elsewhere is incredibly important, but earmarks are a symbolic part of the battle. If we can’t cut this fraction of spending out of the budget or reform the earmark process, are we naive enough to believe that we can reform entitlements?
Back in 2006, at the height of the discussion about ethics in Congress, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) explained that earmarks are the “currency of corrpution.” Not only were members using them to steer business to donors and friends, they were being used by leadership of both parties to sway votes on legislation.
Over the last couple of months, we’ve been keeping you up to date on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). While its supporters say that the legislation is needed to safeguard intellectual property rights and protect jobs, SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act (it’s Senate counterpart) would fundamentally change the Internet by censoring websites that purportedly enable copyright infringement or piracy.
There are many who will deny that piracy is a growing problem, but the answer to the problem is not SOPA, PROTECT IP, or any other bill that would promote government censorship of the Internet and, as Mark Lemley, David Levine, and David Post have noted, remove due process protections for sites accused of copyright infringement. These bills would also tinker with DNS filtering, which would block “offending” websites from being accessed by Internet service providers.
As you can imagine, the consequences of these two bills has many websites owners on edge. The prospect of an entire site being essentially wiped off of the web due to a single instance of copyright infringement, even if it’s unintended, has many ready to fight back. That’s why today many big names are either blacking out their sites in protest of SOPA/PIPA — among them are Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, and Wordpress.org. Others, such as Google, are hoping to educate vistors of the dangers of these two bills.
I’m kind of a rare breed of libertarian. I actually believe in the concept of intellectual property. As such, some might be under the belief that folks like me would be in favor of something like the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA.
Of course, they would be horribly, horribly wrong.
Regardless of ones feelings on IP, the reality is that SOPA is nothing less than a NDAA or PATRIOT Act for the internet.
You see, the internet is the last bastion of freedom anywhere in the world. While it’s entirely possible to render something illegal in one country, it’s virtually impossible to stamp it out. Laws and regulations become meaningless as physical borders mean nothing on a cyberscape free from such lines.
The kick in the butt with this bill, as with many similar bills, is that it really won’t do a whole heck of a lot to combat piracy. Of course, there are some that will argue that what SOPA seeks to do is crush that freedom. That ideas breed in such freedom, and such ideas can not be allowed to incubate.
I don’t know if I would go that far, but what is clear is that SOPA is nothing more than a powergrab. Those that are supposed to support and defend the Constitution have instead decided to just ignore the document completely.
SOPA seeks to require your ISP to spy on you. It seeks to hurt companies like Mozilla that haven’t done what the powerful want it to do. It seeks to rewrite the current laws regarding the internet and remake it into a place where innovation no longer happens.
Now, SOPA may not be all bad. After all, plenty of companies will love to open up their nations to the off-shore dollars that are bound to flee the United States after a SOPA-like bill is passed. While I’m not an opponent of out sourcing per se, I’d prefer it not to be encouraged through idiotic legislation.
On the heels of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which effectively shredded the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and Habeas Corpus, Congress will likely take up the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) at some point early next year.
Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) and co-sponsored by representatives from both parties (the bill has a total of 31 co-sponsors!), the Stop Online Piracy Act purports to stop “foreign online criminals from stealing and selling America’s intellectual property and keeping the profits for themselves.”
According to Rep. Smith’s website, “IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs. The Stop Online Piracy Act specifically targets foreign websites primarily dedicated to illegal activity or foreign websites that market themselves as such. The bill ensures that profits from America’s innovations go to American innovators.”
That sounds relatively harmless, but there has been a lot of concern among tech-advocates that SOPA would would lead to censorship and deter innovation on the Internet.
I’ve been following the progress of the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” or SOPA, also known as the “Internet Blacklist Bill,” for some time now, but haven’t posted about it because I feel that other websites cover it far better. Recently, though, I’ve seen some news I feel I have to share to United Liberty readers, because it comes straight from the “Holy Crap I Never Saw THAT Coming!” department.
For a good summary of why SOPA is a bad law, you should read the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s explanation. You can also grab the actual text of the law here. In effect, the bill would criminalize “casual piracy”—linking a music video on Facebook would land you some stiff penalties, as well as penalties for Facebook. Goodbye Youtube, as well. For that reason, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, Google, and a host of other Internet giants have come out against the bill, in addition to groups like EFF, DemandProgress, CreativeCommons, and Mozilla.
It appears that Lois Lerner, the embattled director of the IRS’s Tax-Exempt Division, may have put herself in a bit of a pickle. Despite stating her intention to invoke her Fifth Amendment right in advance of the hearing, Lerner gave an opening statement in which she clearly stated that she had done nothing wrong.
“[M]embers of this committee have accused me of providing false information when I responded to questions about the IRS processing of applications for tax exemption,” Lerner told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. “I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”
“And while I would very much like to answer the committee’s questions today, I’ve been advised by my counsel to assert my Constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing,” she added. “After very careful consideration, I’ve decided to follow my counsel’s advice, and not testify or answer any of the questions today. Because I’m asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I’ve done something wrong. I have not.”
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) believes that her opening statement, given before she invoked the Fifth Amendment, was tantamount to her waiving her right:
“The irony is inescapable. Ms. Lerner gets to use her constitutional rights, but then won’t stay and answer questions about Americans being denied their constitutional rights.” — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
Earlier this morning, Lois Lerner, the embattled director of the IRS’s Tax-Exempt Division, invoked her Fifth Amendment right before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and refused to answer questions about the agency’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative organizations:
“I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations,” Lerner, the head of an IRS division overseeing tax-exempt groups that targeted conservative groups, said before the House Oversight Committee.
Lerner then said she was following her counsel’s advice not to testify. “
“I know that some people will assume that I have done something wrong,” she said. “I have not.”
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)asked that she reconsider, but she declined.
Issa then tried to dismiss Lerner, but Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), himself a former prosecutor, said that Lerner had waived her Fifth Amendment rights via her opening statement. Issa eventually did dismiss the IRS official, but said she could be recalled.